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Tommy Thompson on Corporations

Former Secretary of H.H.S.; former Republican Governor (WI)


1986 pro-business campaign: more and better jobs

In my 1986 campaign for governor I said that "the primary objective of the Wisconsin state government will be to enhance opportunities for prosperity for the citizens of this state. Simply put, that means more and better jobs."

Political insiders told me I could never win being "pro-business" in an "anti-business" state. Wisconsin was the birthplace of the Progressive movement, the people who brought down big-business monopolies.

Had we become so locked into labels that being pro-business was a bad thing? Jobs are good for people; businesses create and sustain jobs. Isn't that common sense?

When I first ran for governor, Wisconsin's economy was in the tank. In their minds, the need to rescue workers from a crumbling economy had evolved into a Doberman pinscher-like need to protect workers from business--business that couldn't be trusted. And this attitude translated into action. The state government was basically in an adversarial relationship with the business of our state. It wasn't working

Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.147-148 , Sep 1, 1996

1986: Tax cuts to show WI was good place to do business

I realized that after the election we had a small window of opportunity to make major changes, I wanted to shake up the system right away, to let people know we were serious. The tax cuts I was proposing in my budget would be part of the strategy. They would demonstrate that we were serious about making the state a good place to do business. We also immediately began overhauling the Department of Development. Its very existence meant the state already had made an institutional commitment to help businesses create jobs, but it was a backwater department with little focus or resources. I made it one of my strongest agencies.

We increased funding for the development fund from $2 million to $20 million, and introduced new flexibility into the system, so we could be more responsive to the specific needs of individual developing businesses.

Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.151-152 , Sep 1, 1996

Exclude 60% of capital gains from taxation

Today, Wisconsin is one of only a handful of states to exclude a portion of capital gains from taxation. That is one reason Wisconsin's entrepreneurial climate is now rated the best in the Midwest. While the nation has lost nearly 600,000 manufacturing jobs in the past decade, Wisconsin businesses have created more than 86,000 new ones. We're a medium-sized state, but we're #1 in manufacturing job growth, and we rank fourth in the nation in the percentage of manufacturing jobs in our workforce. Excluding 60% of capital gains taxation means a lot to a small manufacturing firm. It is an important arrow in my quiver when I talk to businesses about creating more jobs in Wisconsin. Eliminating or reducing the capital gains tax at the federal level would generate economic growth in America just as it has in Wisconsin. If only Washington could extricate itself from its "label locks."
Source: Power to the People, by Tommy Thompson, p.158 , Sep 1, 1996

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Page last updated: Mar 14, 2014